A Stately Affair

A Stately Affair

It is mid-morning in the ante-room of a stately home near Plymouth in 2019.  A small group of unpaid volunteer guides have assembled for a meeting with their Manager.  Doreen, Maralyn and Sonia are all senior citizens who have worked together for over 20 years.  They come from totally different backgrounds, with Doreen being a former CEO of major companies.   Whilst they are volunteers they are fiercely proud of their stately home and determined to face future challenges together.  Their Manager Cliff Edge has just returned from a meeting with other stately home managers and senior managers.

ACT ONE, SCENE ONE (Door opens and Cliff comes rushing in).

DOREEN Oh at last.  

CLIFF Apologies girls, sorry I’m late.

MARALYN Girls?  I wish.

CLIFF Sorry.  Ladies.  Had a hell of a meeting.  

SONIA What’s wrong?

CLIFF   Numbers/

DOREEN What about them?

CLIFF Does the word “Footfall” mean anything?  (Pauses)  Anyone?

MARALYN Don’t you know?

CLIFF   Course I do.  Just wondered if you three did.  Cos it’s important. Head Office is getting worried.  Our footfall is a lot less than others in the group.

SONIA Footfall?

DOREEN The number of people coming round the estate.  It’s a trendy word. Came from the States, like most annoying things do.

MARALYN So what’s the problem, Cliff?

CLIFF   Well our operation is costing more than others.  Fewer people visiting, less car parking, fewer meals served, less income from the portable loos, less direct debits.  It’s all less.

SONIA Well we don’t get paid a penny.  So we ain’t less. Perhaps we should start using the portable loos rather than the staff ones.  Stop bringing a flask in and buy a coffee from the cafe. Would that help?

CLIFF Hardly Sonia, but thanks for the offer.

MARALYN Glad about that.  Those portaloos are awful.  Fancy paying 20p a pee.

DOREEN So what are you saying, Cliff.  We cost more than others to run?  (Cliff nods)  So what?

CLIFF If we can’t increase our footfall…/

SONIA Visitors!

CLIFF Visitors.  We must increase our visitors………(Pause) or else.

MARALYN Or else what?

CLIFF We could close.  Either permanently, or only open a few months of the year.  My job would go, so would other paid staff. (Pauses)  As for yourselves, if we weren’t open, there wouldn’t be any need for you.  Sorry to be brutal.

DOREEN Oh that would be awful.  Since my husband died, this has been my lifeline.  Sonia and Maralyn have become my best friends. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t put my coat and hat on, and look forward to coming here, seeing my friends, (ironically) “us girls”, meeting the public, telling them about their heritage/

MARALYN Don’t forget, looking for a new husband.  Since my old man died. It gets very lonely…./

DOREEN Maralyn, can I assure you that I am not here “looking for a new husband”.

MARALYN No that’s me.  (sniffs)  Still, ain’t found one.  Fancied one or two, but they were already taken…….or they fancied Sonia instead.

SONIA (Flustered)  Don’t bring me into this.  I’ve never married, and never want to…ever!

CLIFF Ladies, girls,……please.  This is serious. Now, I may have never said this before, and if I haven’t, I do apologise but I wanted to place on the record my appreciation for all your hard work and efforts over many, many years.

DOREEN That’s the closest we’re ever going to get to a P45.  Sounds like cheerio to me Cliff. Have you given up already?  Cos we haven’t. This place is really important to us (Other two nod), so get used to it.  We’ll find a way, a solution, we’ll sort it.  Footfall, Football, Freefall – don’t matter to us.  We’re the 3 Musketeers and if you want to be D’Artagnan all well and good.  

MARALYN Well said, Doreen!  Love it!

SONIA So do I.  It’s really exciting.  What about you Cliff? Up for it?  (Waves an imaginary sword in the air)  All for one and one for all!  

CLIFF   You missed a bit…Dumas.  “All for one and one for all.  United we stand divided we fall!”  Yes indeed. I’m in! (Pauses)  Although not quite sure what I’ve just signed up for.  Got a bit carried away by all the emotion and camaraderie.  Not used to it.

DOREEN Wait and see.  First of all the 3 Musketeers need to meet in private.  Then D’Artagnan can join us. (Pauses)  We’re having a “pre-strategy planning meeting”.  They haven’t got a clue what it means, but it was in one of the magazines in my Dentists.  Anyway sounds good. So off you go Cliff. We’ll see you in the morning.

(Cliff leaves the ante-room looking pensive)

MARALYN What now Doreen?  You seem to know what’s going on.  I’m completely lost.

DOREEN If this place is going to survive, we need to do some serious thinking and take some real actions.  Didn’t want to say much in front of Cliff, but he’s not a Winston Churchill figure./

SONIA What?  We going to “fight them on the beaches” and all that

DOREEN Sort of.  Right now listen to me…………


ACT 1, SCENE 2 (The volunteers are sitting in the lounge.  There are bits of paper all over a table, and Maralyn is writing furiously.)

DOREEN Done?  (Maralyn nods)  Right.  That was a good couple of hours work.  When I was in business, we used to call it brainstorming.  Can I say, Sonia, how impressed I was with your contribution.  Some of the stuff that came out of your head was amazing – even concerning.

SONIA (Enthusiastically) Couldn’t help it.  Once you said what you wanted my mind simply took over.  Thoughts kept rushing in. Needed to shout them out before I forgot them.

DOREEN That’s brainstorming for you.  Now we need to go back over all the ideas, have a look at them, see what are feasible and put them to one side, but don’t forget the others, because we might need them later.

MARALYN There are dozens here.  How are we going to sort them out?

DOREEN Right before we start, let me summarise.  Our stately home is under threat. I said “ours” because we’ve been working together for over 20 years and long before all of us ended up being on our own.  This place means a lot to me and I’m damned sure I’m not giving up without a fight.

SONIA (Claps)  Well said, Doreen.  Brilliant. Now I can see the Churchill connection!

MARALYN Me too.  I love this place.  The atmosphere, the history, heritage, the chance to meet my friends and do something useful.  We simply cannot let them close it. (Defiantly)  No matter what we have to do.

SONIA But what do we have to do Doreen?  I just had a little panic then. What is it?  What can we do?

DOREEN It’s simple.  (Points) Get more people through those doors, visiting, spending money.  We’re in the game of selling – like anyone else.  And do you know what the best salespeople rely on?  Throughout history. What sells? What makes people dish the cash to buy things or visit places like this?

MARALYN History?  Heritage? Lovely gardens?  The Tea Room? (Pauses)  Well, it can’t be us!

DOREEN Nearly Maralyn.  Nearly. (Long pause then triumphantly)  “Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll

SONIA What?!  “Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll”  Help!

DOREEN Look at all the adverts.  The successful ones I mean.  Cars, clothes, perfumes, holidays even a bar of chocolate for goodness sake.  They all had an element in them. Sexy, desirable, enticing, inviting, a memorable piece of music.  Remember that Hamlet cigar theme. Massive.

MARALYN I’m OK with the idea till I get to drugs?  How?

SONIA I’m a bit nervous about the other thing…..you know……not the drugs or the music…(softly) the other thing (looks guilty and whispers)  “Sex?”

DOREEN I’d never have guessed Sonia.  As for drugs, not so obvious, but drugs are about people wanting more.  Get them hooked, then make sure they can get more and more when they want it.  Look at those kid’s games, the rush for Xmas toys. (Mimics)  “Must have this Mummy.  Must have that Mummy”  How many mobile phones can any one person want or need?  Yet every week they seem to have a new model.

SONIA Don’t want to be a wet blanket, but this is a 500-year-old stately home.  How are we going to make it more attractive to visitors? A couple of years ago, they had Queen with Brian May playing on the roof of Buckingham Palace with thousands watching down the Mall.  We can’t compete with that/

DOREEN Brilliant Sonia.  Maralyn, write that down.  Live music festivals. Top name acts.

SONIA What about Sex?

MARALYN I thought you weren’t keen on it.  (Laughs)  When we were talking about men earlier on, you got all humpety.  (Pauses)  I’ve got it.  (Excitedly)  Last year that woman was found to be running one of those bondage clubs in an industrial unit in Plympton.  Doing a bomb. We’ve got the original cellars, sorry dungeons here where they used to put difficult serfs in.  Perfect. Yes?

DOREEN You’re a natural for this Maralyn.  What a smashing idea.

SONIA I was wondering about costumes.  (Pauses)  You know.  At the moment we show visitors around the House wearing our day to day clothes.  What if we dressed up?

MARALYN What as Bunny Girls?  Don’t think that would fit.  Mind you some of the weirdos we take round would enjoy it.  Remember that retired Vicar? And that German last year. “Hans On” or whatever his name was.  Even wore one of those funny raincoats.

SONIA (Excitedly) I’m getting the hang of this.  Now I know what we need to do. (Pauses) I wasn’t exactly suggesting Bunny Girl costumes, but what about a bit of Nell Gwyn?  Bit of oomph, show off some cleavage.

DOREEN There’s a bit of a darkness in you, Sonia.  Some of the ideas you’ve come up with show a side we’ve never seen before.  Definitely keep an eye on you madam.

MARALYN What about enhancing the information we provide to visitors?  You know. Stretch it a little…../

SONIA Do you mean lie?  Oh, how exciting.

DOROTHY Maralyn used the word “enhancing “but I think you’ve got it in one.  Maralyn, can I ask you to take that option away with you? Work on it a bit.  Look at what we say now, and think of better ways of describing the heritage, facilities and history.  Perhaps add on a couple of extras. The sort of things that might entice the stately home punter and put us more firmly on the map.

MARALYN Of course.  However, there was one option that I was thinking of, but it might be a little dubious.

SONIA Depends on how desperate we are.

MARALYN You’d definitely be desperate for this one.

DOREEN Stop teasing us.

MARALYN My nephew’s been away for a couple of years.  Guest of Her Majesty. He’s looking for new facilities for his next venture.  He’s a keen gardener. Learnt a lot of new skills these past few years. At the back of the house, there is a heap of empty Victorian glass houses.  Haven’t been used for ages.

SONIA What a good idea.  Grow lots of delicious fruit and veg.  Sell them direct to the visitors. Should make oodles.   Health living and all that.

DOREEN Don’t think fruit and veg are on the menu.  Eh, Maralyn? (She nods)  But it’s clearly a very lucrative option, and would most certainly increase the number of visitors.

SONIA What are you talking about Doreen?

MARALYN Hash, grass, cannabis, call it what you like.  It’s green money.

SONIA Oh my God.  (Pauses)  Wahoo!

DOREEN I take it you’re in favour.  Needs to be carefully thought through, but desperate times means desperate measures.  Now Maralyn. Read something off your list of ideas. Pick something at random.

MARALYN 2020.  Someone shouted out 2020.  Next year the whole city will be going mad.  It’s the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailings.  There’ll be thousands of visitors, masses of Yanks. Lots of money, totally obsessed with our history and culture.  They’ll be dying to see the rooms George Washington used when he stayed at our stately home and especially the tree where he carved his initials.  

SONIA (Puzzled) Don’t think he ever left the USA, let alone visited here?

MARALYN It was a discreet visit, but I’ve found a recent document that suggests otherwise, so we’ll go strong on a suggestion rather than absolute fact.  And the initials on the tree will be a definite.

DOREEN Which tree?

MARALYN The ones by the meadow.  

SONIA They weren’t planted until George Washington had been dead over a 100 years.

DOREEN That’s a matter of the small detail, which we can deal with.  However, I think Maralyn has identified a major source of future visitors drawn to our stately home by a whole series of events and a couple of coincidences.  This could be it, ladies. Mayflower 2020. Let’s get down to some authentic research as well. It always helps, although sometimes the truth is even more bizarre.  

SONIA I guess you’re going to give us an example.  

DOREEN How’s about the whole crew and passengers of the Mayflower were invited to stay in the house prior to their embarkation?  It needed urgent repairs. I’m sure some of the artefacts and other items littered around the house have Mayflower connections from their short stay here.

SONIA So this was a stately hotel for the Mayflower team?

MARALYN More of a village inn for some, and a place of custody for others.  Hence the dungeons. Don’t forget they had a contingent of slaves with them.  They would have needed to be looked after, apart from the Hoi Polloi – the common people.  Then there were the elite, who actually slept in the same beds as our previous historic visitors.

SONIA Such as?

DOREEN I’m sure Maralyn’s list includes Charles I & II, Oliver Cromwell that sort of thing.

SONIA Elizabeth I?  What about her?

MARALYN Don’t enhance the truth too much Sonia.  She died before the House was built. (Pause)  Now. (Pause) Michael Jackson.  (Pause)  Was definitely in the UK lots of times, and I know for a fact he visited Exeter cos he was friends with that Uri Geller who lives there.  Only 40 minutes down the road. Visited, slept over and even tried to buy the place. Wanted to start one of those Zoos like he had back in the States, in the grounds near the river.  Yeah. What about a small safari park? There’s a nice hook. That’ll bring them in.

SONIA Who the Fraud Squad, or Trading Standards?  You’ll never get away with it.

DOREEN Desperate times, desperate measures Sonia.  (Pauses)  Remember.  (Pauses)  Right now let’s brief our Manager on what’s happening.


ACT 1, SCENE 3. (3 months have elapsed and there is a meeting in ante-room with Cliff, and the three volunteers present.  Cliff has opened a bottle of wine and poured four glasses. Each takes one as Cliff proposes a toast).

CLIFF   I choose my words carefully here, but Ladies can I say how delighted I am.  The results for the past quarter have been stunning, and it’s entirely down to you.  D’Artagnan once said, “No difficulties can ever daunt me.” You’ve taken the challenge and thrashed it to pieces.  I propose a toast to my special 3 Musketeers. Well done all. (All lift glasses and toast one another).  More visitors than ever before, new facilities, masses of interest from the USA about next years Mayflower 2020 celebrations.  Bookings flooding in. Amazing. How did you do it?

DOREEN Well it was a mixture of teamwork, innovation, and a nice dollop of good luck.

SONIA I loved the innovation, the freedom, the opportunities that developed.  

CLIFF Was it your idea to introduce an evening of history and briefings in the Cellars.  Seems to have caught on. (Laughs)  Someone told me it was better than going to Plympton, whatever that means?

SONIA (Giggles)  Well some of our regular customers get a little too hung up on the history.  Soon sort them out. Give them a good old thrashing if they don’t behave. (Doreen and Maralyn smile)

DOREEN Those nights are very much Sonia’s pride and joy.  She’s developed a regular little group, all with a common interest.  Maralyn was the lucky one. (Pauses)  Why don’t you explain?

MARALYN Well it was odd really.  This rather shabby old man became a regular visitor to the House, always had a small notebook with him, and kept writing things down.  Been watching too much CrimeWatch, because at first, I thought he was one of those Gypsy people who’ve been breaking into stately homes throughout the country and stealing valuable artwork and whatever else they can lay their hands on.  (Puts on an American accent)  “Thought he was casing the joint

CLIFF What happened?

MARALYN Had a chat to him during a quiet moment and realised he had been doing research on our House for over 50 years.  He had masses of notebooks, tons of information, and some of it was quite mind-blowing. Especially about previous historical figures who had visited.

CLIFF Is that where the George Washington thing came from?

MARALYN Definitely.  Like you I was a little sceptical at first, but when he showed me his notes about old records, it became clear it was absolutely true.  And there were others which I’ve now included in our “Enhanced Visitors Guide.”  It’s like an upmarket Watchtower magazine, without the Jehovah’s.

CLIFF It would be really nice to meet him.  Seems like a really interesting character.

DOREEN Well he’s a bit of a recluse.  Hates publicity, very shy, and disappears for months on end apparently.  However, we’re sure that if we need his expertise and knowledge it will be made available.

CLIFF Anything else?

MARALYN We haven’t discussed the garden project, and in terms of openness and honesty between us, I really wanted to be clear on how it’s developing.  As you know my nephew is running it; as a volunteer of course. He had a difficult start in life, but has turned his life around and is now making a real effort to develop the project.

CLIFF   I’ve seen quite a lot of activity there.  Lots of visitors and it’s very encouraging to see he attracts the younger person, about time too.  What’s he growing?

MARALYN Initially he’s concentrating on green plants.  The sort of stuff that a person can take home and grow on, in their own environment.  Low cost, low maintenance and should prove profitable in the longer term. Most importantly he’s increasing our visitor numbers and raising awareness of what we do.

CLIFF   That’s brilliant.  I’m really impressed with you all.  Now, what do you want me to take the lead on?

DOREEN We thought the Musical Concert in the grounds.  

SONIA We were inspired by Queen at Buckingham Palace a couple of years ago.  On the roof and all that.

CLIFF I’m game for anything.  So will this be part of the Mayflower 2020 tribute and reconstruction?

MARALYN I’m told the devil is in the detail.  Go on. Be a Devil! You have a blank canvas.  Think outside of the box. (Pauses)  I’m really beginning to love those American business expressions you know.  

DOREEN So can we put it down as a matter of record?  Cliff responsible for organising a concert in the grounds.  That’ll draw them in if nothing does. Try and get some big-name artists.

SONIA  I might be able to help you there.  One of my neighbour’s son Eugene plays in a band and has lots of contacts.  Say’s a few of them owe him a favour.

CLIFF Can I ask what group he’s in?

SONIA Not sure of his group, but his Grandad is one of the Rolling Stones.  I think they’re still playing. Would they do?

CLIFF (Gibbering)  Do?  Sonia if you can pull this one off I’ll run naked around the grounds of this stately home.

SONIA Well you might have company.  Eugene says his Grandad’s band are still a bit lively.

DOREEN Wonderful.  A geriatric rock n roll night.  That’ll put us on the map.

MARALYN Do they still need groupies?  Been looking for a husband for so long, might have to lower my sights.

DOREEN You keep your tights on.  Don’t embarrass us all.

SONIA Lower her sights, Doreen.  Sights. Your batteries need changing.  

CLIFF Well ladies, I must be off.  (Rubs hands together then clenches fists) I’m getting a real buzz about this.  Feel quite euphoric. Just like the other day, when I went in to see your nephew Maralyn.  Those greenhouses really do make one feel revitalised, energised ready for anything. There’s an atmosphere about the place.  It’s unique. The place was heaving. (Pauses)  Right, see you all tomorrow.  Important meeting.



(Interior of ante-room, mid-morning, Doreen and Maralyn are comparing notes at the table.  There is a knock at the door. They ignore it at first, but after further knocking, Doreen gets up and opens it.  Sonia is stood there in full Nell Gwyn style costume. She turns, twirls and enters the room. Doreen and Maralyn are stood watching her.)

SONIA Well?  What do you think? (Pauses and twirls again, going slightly off-balance, stops, steadies herself and pushes her breasts back up and into place in the low cut costume.)

MARALYN Amazing.  Thought just then we were going to have the first topless moment in this stately home for a few centuries.

SONIA (Pulling at costume)  Still needs a bit of adjustment.  However, it wouldn’t have been a few centuries since the last time.  Don’t forget the Yanks were billeted in the grounds during WW2. My mother said there were plenty of topless shenanigans.  (Pauses/flustered)  Sorry, I wasn’t suggesting she was……/

DOREEN I can guess Sonia.  Yes, they were here, with their cheap stockings, chocolate, perfume and cigarettes.

MARALYN Sounds like Lidl’s or Aldi.  

DOREEN That’s another German invasion.  No Yanks this time to win the war for us.  Huh!

MARALYN Sonia, are you expecting us, (Pauses)  Let me re-phrase that, are you expecting me to get into the sort of costume you’re wearing?  Is this to be the official garb of the volunteer guides?

SONIA (Laughs)  Well you wouldn’t need as much padding as some (looks at Doreen) but yes.  I was hoping you might like my idea.  Borrowed this costume from the Theatre Royal.  They hire them out but gave me a 48-hour free trial.  Said I might be able to help them out with a big problem they’ve got.  What do you think Doreen?

DOREEN I think they’re perfect Sonia.  Well done. This new image together with the work Maralyn has been doing on the guide for visitors will really make an impression and draw in the visitors.

SONIA Glad, you said that Doreen, ‘cos last night I tried wearing one for my Tuesday night meetings in the cellars……I mean dungeons.  Went down a bomb. Even the rubber brigade found the image attractive, and they are usually into sniffing car tyres.

MARALYN And wearing those awful masks with the cutouts.

SONIA Well not all of them wear masks.  The ones with psoriasis find them uncomfortable.

DOREEN OK.  Stop!  The mind boggles.  (Pauses)  Right Maralyn, let’s have a run through of the new scripts for the house guides.  You’ve obviously done masses of work……….(Pauses)…Ladies and Gentlemen. May I present Maralyn’s monologues.  (Claps then sits down at the table with Sonia and Maralyn).



(One month later.  Interior of ante-room.  A door at the end opens and Maralyn dressed as Nell Gwyn character enters followed by a small group of visitors (male, female, young, old etc, different ethnicities, including one person wearing a burka)

MARALYN Ladies and gentlemen, please follow me and if you could gather round I’ll continue the tour briefing.  (Visitors move closer and wait expectantly)  (Pause)  I do hope you have all enjoyed your tour so far.  We have one other major room in the home that we will be going into next which is our “piece de resistance”  This room has had more historical figures tread its hallowed boards, than the Old Vic.  It is drenched in history. There is an aura about it. Something magical, memorable, historical is waiting for your presence.  Your grand entrance is close. (Pauses)  

However, a little bit of Admin first.  I did explain earlier that because of the unique nature of the experience there would be a small surcharge/

VISITOR A. How much?  The bloody cafe was expensive.  Two quid for a cuppa. Rip off. How much (mimics) “for this unique experience.”  

MARALYN (Nervously)  Would a pound be alright?  

VISITOR A Each?  Or for a couple?

MARALYN (Flustered)  Well it should be a pound each really….(pauses) but you’ve been such wonderful and interesting visitors, I’m only going to ask for a pound per couple.  (Forcefully)  Mind you it’s still a pound for a single.  Is there anyone single here? (Flushes)  I don’t mean single in a marital or relationship sense………..although……no what I meant was/

VISITOR A We know what you meant Nell Gwyn.  Right, can we get on with it?

MARALYN Right this way Ladies and Gentlemen.  (Person in the Burka hesitates then follows group out of door following Maralyn.)



(Later that week.  The 3 volunteers are sitting in the ante-room drinking coffee.)

DOREEN I must say how impressed I was with the new Visitors Guide.  Went down an absolute bomb. Couldn’t believe some of the tosh I was coming out with/

SONIA Me neither, but the visitors all seemed to like it especially when I gave them a chance to meditate.

MARALYN What?  Meditate?

SONIA Just a little experiment.  Got them all together in the Blue Rooms, and had them hold hands, close their eyes, deep breathing and use their imagination.  Went down extremely well.

DOREEN Were the windows open?

SONIA Yes why?

DOREEN That explains it.  The Blue Room windows are right above the extractor fan in the greenhouses.  They were probably stoned! Mind you what a bloody good idea. I’ll try it this afternoon with my group.  Do they have to chant?

SONIA No Doreen.  A few moments of deep breathing does the trick.  And here’s me thinking I had some mystic influence.

MARALYN Had a couple of awkward customers yesterday.  One chap objected to everything. Apparently, when he’s normally on holiday, he pays one price for his break.  All inclusive he called it. Food, drinks, entertainment all paid for in the price. He objected to the surcharge for the Yellow Room, objected to the price of a cup of tea, and paying for the loo.  (Pauses)  Had another strange one as well.  Dressed in the full face Burka.

SONIA She was on one of my groups a couple of days ago.  Tall with big feet, and had a funny smell about her.

DOREEN What do you mean funny smell?

SONIA I’m not being horrible.  It wasn’t B.O. or something like that.  It was more like the smell of aftershave.  Men’s aftershave. Strange.

DOREEN I’d better let Cliff know.  He’s ex-Army. Knows about these things.  What if it were one of those terrorists? Perhaps thinking about blowing the place up.  Look at all those damaged temples in Syria and Iraq.

MARALYN But us?  No. More likely to do with our potential visitor for the Mayflower celebrations.  Saw Cliff just now, he was running around like a headless chicken with a letter in his hand.  Really excited. I won’t spoil his news.

DOREEN (Sniffily)  Well I would hope that such news – whatever it is, would be shared with us all.  Equally. At the same time. And without exception…../(Door of the ante-room bursts open and Cliff comes rushing in).  Speak of the devil.  I understand you have something important to tell us.

CLIFF Too blooming right I have.  He’s said Yes! Yes! Yes!

SONIA Who for goodness sake?  Jeremy Corbyn? Is he coming to our pop concert?  Made a complete fool of himself at Glastonbury. Is he coming, or is it the Messiah?

CLIFF President Trump!  President bloodyTrump!  He’s accepted our, I mean my, invitation to visit when he’s in Plymouth for the 2020 celebrations.  Passed on the information that Maralyn found, about his great, great, great grandfather who used to work on the estate and married one of the aristocracy.  That was it. Hook, line and sinker. The world press will be crawling all over the place. Need to get myself some new clothes. Bound to be doing masses of interviews.  Wow! Wow!

DOREEN Don’t get too excited.  He’s prone to changing his mind like his underpants.  Besides…/

CLIFF Besides what?

MARALYN We’ve had a strange visitor.  Might be suspicious.

SONIA Tall, with big feet and dark.  And I mean dark. (Pauses)  Wearing a full face Burka.  Visited twice.

CLIFF Well what’s wrong with that?  We have growing population of Muslims in Plymouth, we’re bound to attract visitors from different backgrounds.  What’s wrong with that. Simply because someone dresses that way doesn’t make them a terr………(Pauses)  Oh my.  President Trump the target of a (stutters)  terr, terr, terrorist plot?

DOREEN The person was wearing aftershave.

CLIFF What sort.  What did it smell of?

MARALYN (Indignantly)  I don’t know.  It’s been years since I worked in the perfumery of Dingles.  But I think it was called Al Qaeda or something like that.

CLIFF I must go.  Need to ring the US Embassy and take advice.  This could bugger everything up. Let me know if you see the person again. (Cliff exits ante-room rapidly)

DOREEN Sonia, a little while ago you said you’d been talking to the Theatre Royal, about their costumes and something else.  You said they had a problem we might help with.

SONIA Yes.  Big time problem.  And I mean big time.

DOREEN Go on…..

SONIA Well if you remember about two years ago they decided to put that statue outside the Theatre.  Thought it would be arty like. Meant to be a courtesan from one of Shakespeare’s plays?

MARALYN Blooming Bianca!  Courtesan! My backside.  She was a prossy and the statue cost £500,000.  Everyone told them to forget the idea, but no, the arty-farties had their way, and there she is, bigger than a double-decker bus and thirty feet wide.  Theatre said they expected people entering the theatre would want to go through and under her legs. Dirty buggers.

DOREEN Trust Plymouth to have its own version of up-skirting!  Anyway, Sonia, what’s the problem?

SONIA Well ever since it’s been erected people have been complaining.  It’s been vandalised, had graffiti, eggs thrown at it, the students climb it for a rag-week dare, and now someone has managed to fix a blow-up doll just above its right ear.  They’ve had enough.

MARALYN I bet they want someone to kidnap it and take it away.  Surreptitiously steal it away and drop it in Plymouth Sound. Yes?

SONIA (Puzzled)  How did you know?  Well not quite like that.  They want it out of sight as soon as possible, and certainly before the 2020 celebrations start and the US Mickey Mouse appreciation society arrive and start to adopt it.  That would be the ultimate embarrassment. They would make a fuss in the local media for a day or two. Get the pavement repaired, put some new trees back and hopefully it would be soon forgotten.

DOREEN And we, I mean the stately home funds would inherit half a million quid’s worth of bronze.

SONIA To be melted down and sold to visitors as genuine early medieval coins, suddenly found in a secret cache.

DOREEN In business Sonia, that’s what we called a win:win situation.  Now I’ve got a friend in the Gypsy and Traveller camp. He’s got one of those big cranes.  Owes me a favour as I’m suing him at the moment for botching up several drives in our road.  We put in a collective order and his team cleverly buggered every one up. He’d want a cut of course.

SONIA Well give him an arm.

MARALYN Or a leg.  There’s two of them.

DOREEN I didn’t mean literally, but your suggestion will appeal to him.  Leave it to me. So it’s an early morning kidnap, relocate to our grounds, hide it away for a while, then start smelting.  (Pause)  Agreed.  (All three nod, then clench fists and 3 Musketeers style shake their hands together).



(One week later the three volunteers are in the ante-room and looking out of the window)

SONIA That statue is absolutely huge, even lain on its side with one leg and one arm missing.

DOREEN My gypsy friend insisted on “an arm and a leg”, said it was standard haggling language, but in this case, it was for real.  Anyway, it’s here, tucked away and is a nice little earner for the future. Local headlines are full of outrage, but comments from the Theatre Royal and the Council are very muted.  Lots of regrets, but one Councillor who’s retiring, nearly gave it away when he said it was a relief really. Think they want the memories to fade as fast as possible.

MARALYN What’s going on over there, near the Orangery.  Isn’t that our manager Cliff? Looks like he’s having some sort of argument with a customer.  (Pause)  Oh, No.  (Pause)  He’s not.  (Pause)  He is.

SONIA He’s what Maralyn?  Got me all excited. And that doesn’t happen very often.  What’s he doing?

DOREEN Our illustrious leader appears to have argued with a member of the public.  That member of the public is now lying on the ground and our Manager is removing the person’s clothing.

SONIA What!  That’s incredible.

MARALYN Not so incredible when you realise the customer is……(Pauses) rather was wearing a Burka.  Our mysterious visitor has returned and Cliff is doing his ex-military bit.  

DOREEN Well something’s up because the visitor is clearly a man, not a woman, and clearly an angry man.

SONIA How can you tell that from here?

MARALYN Well a punch is a punch in any language.

DOREEN And Cliff has just been punched and is lying prone on the ground.

SONIA Where’s the visitor?

MARALYN On his mobile phone.

SONIA Ambulance?

DOROTHY Don’t think so.  Cliff tried to get up and the person hit him again.  Really angry. We’d better go and help. (All three leave ante-room)



(Shortly afterwards.  Interior of ante-room, the door opens and three volunteers enter supporting their manager Cliff, whose head is bandaged as are his right hand.  They sit him down and Sonia opens her flask and offers him a drink).

SONIA Get this down, you Cliff.  (Cliff tries to pick up the drink with normal right hand but cannot manage it).  Oh, how silly of me.  You’re immobilised. Let me help you (Holds cup to his lips and spills it down his trousers)  Oh I am sorry. .(Pulls hanky out of handbag and attempts to dab at Cliff’s crotch before realising what she is doing)  (Flustered) Oh good heavens.  (Lifts hands up).  Aaagh.  Sorry.  Sorry

CLIFF Leave it Sonia.  Don’t worry. I’m not upset.  In other circumstances, I might have enjoyed it.

DOREEN What on earth was that all about.  I mean two grown men fighting.

CLIFF No!  One grown man fighting.  The other one trying to protect himself.  That maniac.

MARALYN Who was he?  Thought you were tackling a terrorist for a moment.

CLIFF So did I.  Spotted him lurking around the Orangery.  Way off the visitor routes so went over and challenged him.  He replied in some sort of gibberish, so I thought that’s it, and brought him down.  My army training kicked in, immediately.

SONIA But he was beating you.  What happened?

CLIFF Well his talking gibberish, was because he’d just been to the dentists and his face was still frozen.  Soon as he got up and before he hit me, I knew him. Regional Manager. Couldn’t believe our results. Didn’t trust me apparently and wanted to check up personally and “have the visitor experience“.  Well, he got that alright.  Even if it nearly cost me my job.

DOREEN Nearly?  Surely you’ve had it, Cliff.  Grappling with your Regional Manager.

CLIFF No.  I’ve got him bang to rights.  It was the Burka that did it for him.  Head Office would go bonkers at him denigrating those of the Muslim faith by wearing their dress and apparel.   So we’ve called it a draw. I stay stuumm if he stays stuumm. And……….(smiles broadly) I’ve been promoted.  Going up to Windsor Castle to try and help increase their footfall.  Apparently, since the wedding, there’s been an absolute slump. Want my expertise.  Any of you fancy joining me.

ALL THREE (Shout)  Remember our motto.  “All For One And One For All”  (Pause then in unison)  But not this time Cliff.  (Pause)  This time D’Artagnan is on his own.  We’re home birds at heart! (Sonia looks ruefully at Cliff then holds her hanky to her nose).


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